Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. ∼ Maimonides
The above quote might be true, but you know what – perhaps not applicable to Dubai. As long as we are living in a city like Dubai… let someone else fish, fry them and feed you the fish. So, here’s our new find (almost budget find) – Al Fannah – that has my blogger friend and confidante Coffee Cakes and Running and myself drooling. Located inside the Umm Sequimm Fishing Harbour and the Dubai Ports and Customs Authorities, our hunch is that this hidden gem is soon going to be the next ‘Bu Qtair‘ in town, alibi some fairy lights, melamine plates, steel cutlery and queue-less waits. Also with better fish and a lesser bill (Dhs 10 less for each item off the menu as compared to Bu Qtair). The concept is very much the same – you go upto the counter, select your fresh fish, pay by the kg for the shrimps or by the piece for the big fish, tell them whether you want your fish fried or grilled (the latter is clearly not possible in Bu Qtair) and wait at your table.
Al Fannah needs attention by itself, not because of where it stands in the race against Bu Qtair. To clear things from the start, the restaurant doesn’t have any intention to compete. It so happened that discovering Al Fannah also had the strings of the word ‘Bu Qtair’ attached to it… on our last visit to Bu Qtair as we were heading out, somebody randomly handed in a flyer of this ‘new restaurant which also served similar fried shrimp and fish’. It looked pretty in the evening – with fairy lights and bright blue walls that gave it a glow like an aquarium from the outside. So, on a random afternoon, Debbie and I wanted a new find – a budget find – to cheer us up. The thought of a great Dubai weather, al fresco dining and good sea food prompted us to Al Fannah… and we were bowled over!
The food: We gobbled up two (or may be three) bowls full of fish curry dipping in the pieces of soft Malabari Parathas; a rough 750 gms of fried shrimps pre-marinated in their ‘secret’ spice (I know the secret spice is a clichéd one but I will probably have to go all the way to Kerala to get this secret one); a kg of Sheri deep fried to perfection – soft flakes tearing into our fingers. I also fell for the Biryani rice that our server Shiraz, promised would be ‘bohut acchaa‘ or too good. While I thought that the latter would only make a great prop for my instagram and probably walk away with me in a parcel, destiny clearly had a different intention. For it was cleary too good! If you are a rice eater, my suggestion would be to actually order just the Fish Biryani – it costs Dhs 12/plate – the quantity of rice is quite adequate for two and it covers a sumptuous fried fish (about 9 inches long)… until and unless of course you want a bigger fish to make yourself happy. Service is prompt and the staff attentive – as expected in similar casual dining places. And the food reaches the table steaming hot… well, what can I say? I am clearly sold!
The story: We chat to Younus, the brother of the restaurant owner. He is pretty conversant in English and tells us how the local partner has fishing boats, so the fish that is served here is fresh, local catch. It is quite evident from the location of Al Fannah (inside the Dubai Ports and Customs Authorities’ premises) that the owner has vasta/connection. He also has experience in F&B industry with a line up of other restaurants around Bur Dubai and Al Barsha. While Younus chats with us, the owner walks in and looks at us a bit suspiciously. Younus tells him that we are from a magazine – I guess that from a few random words from their conversation. What is interesting about these self-made entrepreneurs is that their behavior to their customers are consistent – irrespective of whether the latter happens to be media or not. No frills and bonus love in anticipation that you might actually be helping them by some word of mouth. This reminds me of the little story of Musa (again of Bu Qtair!)… when I went to give him a CD of a video that I had made on Bu Qtair (which had become quite popular on You Tube), the first thing that he asks me is whether I would still be paying for the coke that I was drinking!
It was quite obvious that I had to return soon to Al Fannah with the Z-Sisters and S and amidst the fairy lights and cool sea breeze we did return… very soon. Not many places in Dubai warrants me to come back. And also because my job as the Editor of FoodeMag dxb requires me to try out new places all the time – big (like the last one that visited) and small… and that means returning to a place is an opportunity lost to eat out at a new place. For one thing, Al Fannah is not for those on the look out for a romantic hotel set up, but a cute and modest one by the seaside (with artificial green carpeting under your feet while you dine al fresco and humble fairy lights – colourful ones!), but there will surely be fresh delicious seafood to bind your hearts. I do hope that the place becomes popular without the need to diversify their menu with other popular Indian dishes – Chicken dishes as Shiraz mentioned – or the Indian Chinese that they promised to serve me on my next visit.
Which is your favourite budget haunts in Dubai – without mentioning the clichéd Bu Qtair or Ravi’s – where you have to dig in with your hands? That brings back to this picture borrowed from Debbie where I am digging with my hand – not manicured yes, but it’s bringing back all my memories of deep (fried) fish love from our new find!
Unblogging it all… Ishita
Also read Pickle My Fancy’s review.
Disclaimer: The bill for our lunch was Dhs 110 for two persons which also included water and diet cokes, while the bill for our dinner was Dhs 350 for 5 persons (admitting that we did overeat!). This isn’t a sponsored post and the subject, story, opinions and views stated here are my own and are independent. While you enjoy reading the posts with visuals, please do not use any material from these posts. And do join me on my daily food and travel journey on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.